Movie Review by Nigel A. Messenger
Starring: Jennifer Lopez, Vincent D’Onofrio, Vince Vaughn
Director: Tarsem Singh
THE CELL is Jennifer Lopez’ first movie as the lead character, quite an achievement for any actress as many films only ever offer the lead role to the male star. A sci-fi crossed with a psycho-killer detective thriller sounds interesting, so what’s it like?
Jennifer Lopez plays the part of a child therapist, Catherine Deane, working in an advanced institute developing ways to enter the mind of patients who have fallen into a coma. Her current project is working with a child in a coma with whom she is linked via an electronic interface during therapy sessions, enabling her to enter his subdued consciousness, in a way that’s like entering his dreams.
Meanwhile, in a totally separate storyline a psychopathic serial killer, Carl Stargher (Vincent D’Onofrio) is stalking young women, kidnapping, killing and raping them in a bizarre ritual, leaving subtle clues for the police in a desire to be caught. FBI Agent Peter Novak (Vince Vaughn) leads the FBI task force pursuing the killer, profiling him in a desperate attempt to stop the killings.
However another victim is targeted and kidnapped. She is placed in a steel and glass ‘cell’ complete with a few bare essentials to survive, a bed, a toilet and food, constantly filmed by remote video cameras while the ‘cell’ eventually fills with water on a timer system ensuring she will drown automatically. Meanwhile with the FBI task force closing in, the killer who suffers from a rare and worsening untreatable medical condition falls into a coma, one that he will never recover from. With his victim still hidden at a secret location about to die, the police have no way to question him. The FBI’s only resort is to seek help from Jennifer Lopez and her team and ask her to enter the mind of this dangerous criminal, one where he will be in control and a dreamworld where anything can happen.
THE CELL is an impressive and unusual film with bizarre and highly stylised imagery. The scenes of ritualised rape of the killer’s victims are horrific, not only because of the rapes but also because the killer’s ritual acts are seen on screen and not implied off-screen as is usual with other films dealing with this subject. The horror however is cleverly used to build a dramatic tension as the audience is left in no doubt as to what the killer is capable of.
What is more upsetting though is in fact what happens off-screen while in the killer’s mind as Jennifer Lopez is forced to watch violence against the killer as a child. Even though this violence is mostly off-screen one can’t help but feel that this is going too far in bringing a story to the screen and an audience should not be subjected to this kind of explicit violence against children in any film.
Looking past that single point though THE CELL is an excellent film in it’s mixed genre capacity. The scenes are incredible and highly effective. It’s scary, horrific, edge of your seat stuff with good performances by all. Jennifer Lopez performs well in her role and shows great potential as an actress. I’m sure we will be hearing a lot more of Jennifer in the future as an actress as well as a singer.
THE CELL blends sci-fi, horror, detective thriller successfully into one uncomfortable but must-see film.